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Two-thousand new Medtronic jobs may have hinged on legislative action
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Medtronic was founded in Minneapolis in 1949. It now does business in more than 120 countries and employees about 30,000 people. (File photo)
New Brighton city officials and the Pawlenty administration say legislative inaction has complicated efforts to convince Medtronic to expand in New Brighton. Both the city and state are working to encourage the medical device company to expand its operations in the North Metro area. City officials and several state lawmakers say the deal is important enough that the governor should call a special session to resolve the situation.

New Brighton, Minn. — When state lawmakers adjourned the 2004 legislative session, they may have also harmed the state's efforts to convince Medtronic to expand on a parcel near the intersection of Highways 694 and 35W. During a news conference on Monday, Gov. Pawlenty criticized lawmakers, in particular Senate DFLers, for not getting their work done, and he singled out the impact on Medtronic.

"We are on the verge of trying to close a deal with Medtronic. Medtronic would add 2,000 or so jobs in the coming years; high-paying research and development jobs. With relatively minor legislative adjustments, that would have helped those discussions along very nicely. Those discussions will continue in other ways," he said.

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Image Sen. Satveer Chaudhary

An official with Medtronic confirms the company has plans to add another 2,000 jobs and is looking for a place to put the new employees. He said New Brighton is one of several expansion options the company is considering. He says the company has not finalized any deal with New Brighton to expand in that community.

Nevertheless, New Brighton city officials say they're moving forward with the hope of putting enough bait on their hook to lure Medtronic. City administrator Matt Fulton says the city hopes to build a 560,000-square-foot facility for the company. He says they plan to build on a site that used to be a city dump. Fulton says the city is seeking about $2 million in redevelopment grant money in the state's bonding bill to fix up the site.

"This project has actually been part of our long-range plan for redevelopment of thhe highway corridor for over a decade. To have the opportunity to redevelop this really challenging piece of redevelopment property with the company of the status of Medtronic is what I consider to be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," Fulton said.

Fulton says he hasn't met with Medtronic officials since the Legislature adjourned, but hopes to convince them that New Brighton is committed to making the project work. He says the city is also seeking state tax incentives to help pay for a portion of the public works infrastructure that's needed for the site.

Both the House and Senate passed the proposals as a part of larger bills. The legislation died when House and Senate leaders could not agree on the best way to move resolve their differences on the major issues of the session. Medtronic is not specifically mentioned in any legislation. In fact, the issue received little attention until after the session was over.

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Image Rep. Char Samuelson

But now some state lawmakers say the issue is urgent enough to call a special session.

Sen. Satveer Chaudhary, DFL-Fridley, says the Medtronic expansion and the entire bonding bill is critical in helping the state's overall economy.

"The entire jobs package rises to the level of requiring a special session, but Medtronic in particular can go anywhere else in their expansion and I think we got to keep them here in Minnesota," he said.

But a Pawlenty spokesperson says Chaudhary's DFL caucus is to blame if Medtronic decides to expand elsewhere. The administration argues that the DFL caucus said it didn't need anything from this year's session. Chaudhary and other Senate DFLers counter that Senate Republicans held up the bonding bill by not providing the necessary votes to pass it.

Some members of Pawlenty's Republican Party also think the issue is important enough to call a special session.

Rep. Char Samuelson, R-New Brighton, says passing the legislation will help show that the state is committed to Minnesota's medical device industry.

"It's very important to continue promote the type of business that Medtronic is in in Minnesota and see ourselves as one of the stellar performing states when it comes to medical advances in health care," Samuelson said.

Pawlenty says he doesn't intend to call a special session unless legislative leaders have agreements on the legislation that they intend to pass.

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